Posted: March 28
It's an apt testimony to the skill and passion of the Amplitude folks that Dungeon of the Endless has become my go-to timewaster. The premise is simple: Your prison ship's been attacked and you've crash-landed on an uncharted planet. You and your motley band of inmates, ship staff and exotic natives must navigate the twelve floors of the mysterious dungeon you've found yourself in by finding the elevator on each floor and using the "crystal" generator from your escape pod to power it and move to the next level up. That crystal is also needed to power the rooms of the dungeon, providing a variety of resources conducive to your survival, but it is limited by its supply of "dust", and each room left unpowered has a chance to spawn a wave of hostile fauna whenever you open a new door on that floor.
The gameplay is an elegant combination of roguelike, tower defence and classic RPG mechanics. It's both accessible and challenging, with a bit less of the luck factor of, say, FTL (you'll rarely be thrown into randomly unsurvivable situations) and more strategic decisions to make rather than a roll of the dice. While plotting your route through the dungeon, protecting the crystal is your primary concern. You'll have a range of modules to install in a dungeon, from resource generators to defensive weaponry, and as your power demand starts to exceed supply you'll have to get clever with which parts of the dungeon you keep powered and where you open new doors. Your heroes' abilities and attributes vary widely. Some are slow but powerful tanks, well-suited to holding a static position; others are technically-minded and can operate or repair the modules you build; others still are nimble speedsters ideal for responding to trouble spots or running the crystal to the elevator. Managing your heroes is therefore crucial to success.
The understated soundtrack and the pseudo-pixellated, hand-painted graphics are both surpassingly beautiful, and taken with the game lore (which frequently ties in with that of Amplitude's other titles, Endless Space and Endless Legend) they create a truly unique atmosphere and sense of immersion. The heroes will treat you to some fun banter occasionally, and are great sources of emergent stories. The tale of how you brave robotic swordsman sacrificed himself keeping a horde of nasties from his beloved crystal carrier; or how two of your most dissimilar dungeon explorers form an unstoppable monster-slaying, best-buddy team; are experiences that remain with you long after their runs have ended. Some combinations of characters even have unique backstories of their own, which unfold as they ascend the floors with sometimes-shocking outcomes that I won't spoil here. Simply put, the game oozes personality.
Whether you're a fan of the genre, or simply someone who appreciates an old-school challenge or a lovingly-made game, I can't recommend Dungeon of the Endless enough. Keep your eyes on Amplitude, because they've just had an amazing year.